According to The British Council, listening occupies about 45% of the time adults spend in communication. This is significantly more than speaking, which accounts for 30%, and reading and writing, which make up 16% and 9% respectively. Yet, for all its importance, people often fail to give active listening the attention it needs. Here, creative sector skills development specialist Alec McPhedran, gives some useful ideas to improve active listening skills.
Listening skills are a crucial component of effective communication. They refer to the ability to receive, interpret, and understand verbal and non-verbal messages from others. Good listening skills are essential in both personal and professional contexts and can significantly enhance your relationships and problem-solving abilities. Here are some key aspects of listening skills:
Active listening involves fully engaging with the speaker and giving them your full attention. This means not only hearing their words but also paying attention to their tone of voice, body language, and emotions. It shows the speaker that you value their input and are interested in what they have to say.
Empathetic listening goes beyond just hearing the words. It involves trying to understand the speaker's feelings, perspective, and emotions. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can build trust and rapport and demonstrate that you care about their well-being.
Interrupting the speaker can be disrespectful and counterproductive. Wait for them to finish speaking before you respond. This shows respect for their ideas and allows for a more meaningful exchange of information.
Asking Clarifying Questions
If you don't understand something the speaker has said, ask clarifying questions to get more information. This not only helps you better grasp the message but also shows that you are actively engaged in the conversation.
Paraphrasing involves summarizing what the speaker has said in your own words. It helps confirm your understanding and allows the speaker to clarify or correct any misconceptions.
Pay attention to your own non-verbal cues, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding, and using facial expressions that convey interest and understanding. Also, observe the speaker's non-verbal cues, as they can provide valuable information about their feelings and attitudes.
Try to eliminate or reduce distractions during a conversation. Turn off your phone, find a quiet space, and give your full focus to the speaker.
Resist Formulating Responses
Sometimes, while someone is speaking, we start formulating our responses in our heads rather than truly listening. Avoid this habit and give your full attention to the speaker's words.
Some people may take longer to express themselves or may not be as articulate. Be patient and allow them the time they need to convey their message.
After the speaker has finished, provide feedback or responses that demonstrate you were listening. This can include summarizing the main points, offering your perspective, or expressing empathy.
Good listening skills are essential for effective communication, conflict resolution, building trust, coaching, counselling and fostering positive relationships. They require practice and ongoing effort, but the benefits of improved listening are well worth it in both personal and professional settings.
Alec McPhedran Chtd Fellow CIPD, Chtd Mngr CMI, MAC, MCMI is the managing director of Skills Channel TV, a training company for talented creative people. He specialises in one to one coaching, facilitated learning, media training and team development. For further information, contact 0121 366 87 99 or visit www.skillschannel.tv.
Copyright © Alec McPhedran 2023
A trainer, coach and facilitator helping people acheive.